There’s no one really close to Kobe Bryant when it comes to the NBA’s active scoring leaders. While the Lakers’ one-man show is surging past 30,000 points, out of the current top 10, only LeBron James looks like he’ll be reaching that mark later in his career. Where do they stop? How far do they reach? That’s what we’re here to suggest, and maybe find out.
Tracy McGrady (Kinda active) – 18,381 points, 19.6 per game
It’s not to clear if McGrady will get to play another NBA game. Probably not. He’s currently playing for the Qingdao Eagles in China, making his NBA career 15 years long, with a lot of unfulfilled goals. He was one of the best players in the league from about 2001 to 2007, even leading the NBA in scoring two seasons in a row, at his best averaging 32.1 points per game.
Last season, with the Atlanta Hawks, he scored only 573 point playing 52 games. He probably won’t reach the 20,000 point mark in his career, despite being only 33. It’s hard to see anyone in the NBA taking a chance on him once again. At the moment, that leaves him at 57th all time.
Antawn Jamison – 19,402 points, 19.3 per game
Jamison is an interesting case. He’s 36 and relegated to a bench role with the Lakers (although that’s changed recently), but it’s obvious he can still score in double figures if given enough time on the court. Over the last 7 games he’s averaging 15.9 points per game, although that will obviously drop once Gasol is back in the lineup.
So what’s the limit? How far does he go? Jamison looks like a solider of fortune with at least two more seasons left in the tank. He’s averaging 8.2 points per game now, and on a different team he’d probably be scoring a bit more. With 63 more games to go this season and two more in the tank at that pace, more or less, he ends up with about 1800 points more. He crossed the 20,000 mark in our opinion. At the moment his 44th on the all-time list.
LeBron James – 19,473, 27.6 per game
An interesting case, because it’s hard to compare James to anyone, and unlike the previous two players, he’s in his prime with quite a few years left to go. Michael Jordan could have played a lot more, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ended their career much earlier. Grant Hill was injured for about half of his career. Charles Barkley might be a good observation point. So would Karl Malone.
James is more talented than both of them, but a lot of his success leans on his physical dominance. There’s a good chance, that unlike Kobe Bryant, his older years might a bit harder for him because he’ll simply be a bit weaker and slower than before. Barkley had 16 years in the NBA. Malone had 19. Will give James the Malone treatment. He’s averaging 25.2 points this season, but he’s been trying to share and be a team player, even more than before. We’re projecting 1690 more points this season, and thinking about a 24 points per game for the rest of his career, meaning nine more seasons which will bring him to 19,402 from now on. That puts him at nearly 39,000 points. If he stays healthy all the way.
Vince Carter – 21,382, 21.3 per game
Carter is into his 15th NBA season, averaging 13 points per game so far. At 36, Carter looks like the kind of player with two, maybe three season left to play, with a diminishing role and output to look forward to. How low? Probably going to continue to score in double figures this season, and a bit lower next year and the next. We’re probably looking at 9-10 points per game for the rest of his career. If healthy for the entire time, that means about 2100-3000 more points in his career, putting him at 24,000, max. He’s currently 31st on the all-time list.
Tim Duncan – 22,897, 20.3 per game
Duncan has gone through some sort of rejuvenation machine, coming out a better player than he has been over the last couple of seasons. In truth, his knee just isn’t bothering him anymore, now averaging 18.8 points per game. He hasn’t been missing many games for quite some time, and if he does, it’s usually Gregg Popovich giving him some time to rest.
He signed for three more seasons during the summer, so we’re assuming that 2014-2015 is going to be his last. Duncan will be 39 when his contract expires. We’re guessing he finishes this season averaging 17 points per game, and we’re giving him 15 points for the rest of his career, putting him at somewhere between 3000 and 3500 more points, which will stop him somewhere around the 26,000 career points mark. He’s currently the 26th highest scorer on the all-time list.
Paul Pierce – 22,935, 22 per game
Pierce keeps scoring in high numbers when you expect his scoring to drop. He’s averaging 19.1 points per game at the age of 35. He’s signed till 2013-2014. How many points does Pierce have in him? If we’re looking at him continuing his career till the end of his contract, we’re guessing Pierce continues to be someone scoring somewhere between 17-19 points per game over the next season and the following one. How much further does that put him? Probably 2500 points more, give or take, and to at least 25,000 points. He’s currently 25th on the all-time list.
Ray Allen – 23,161, 19.9 per game
Allen is in the final stage of his career. A bench player, sixth player at best, coming on to do what he does best: Hit open three pointers. Allen is averaging 12.9 points per game this season for the Heat, and could be probably doing a bit better in an extended role on most of the other teams in the NBA. He’s signed till the end of the 2013-2014 season.
There’s a good chance that Allen continues to move around the league, looking for more title rings once that contract is over, unless he picks up two with the Heat in the next two years. We’re saying he has another two and a half years in him at 11 points per game. That adds about 2500 points more to his account, and he’ll end up somewhere around the 26,000 mark. He’s currently 23rd on the all-time list.
Dirk Nowitzki – 24,134, 22.9 per game
There was quite a steep decline in Nowitzki’s ability, which was understandable after finally reaching the mountain top in 2011. He’s not as old as many on this list, only 34. But he hasn’t played a single game this season and rumors tell us the Mavs are trying to rush his return, which doesn’t bode well. How great, good, or simply average is he going to be once he returns? Nowitzki’s contract expires in 2014.
How much does he have left after that? Are the Mavs going to give up on signing him again? We’re guessing these are his final two years with the Mavs, and we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt, saying he’s going to score 20 points per game for the next season and a half. That should add about 2400 points to his tally, reaching somewhere above 26,000. He’s currently 19th on the all-time list.
Kevin Garnett – 24,553, 19.3 per game
Like Tim Duncan, Garnett’s decline was more injury related than age. Last season, he showed in the postseason just how good he can be once his free from his back pains. He’s not scoring like he did in Minnesota or his first Boston year, but he’s good for at least 15-16 points a night at this stage in his career. For how much longer? Garnett is signed till 2015. He’ll be 39 when it expires. We’re guessing that’s the end for him, and we’re putting him at 15.5 per game this season, somewhere between 13-15 in the following two. Where does that leave us? About 3000 more points, over 27,000. He’s currently the 17th highest scorer on the all-time list.
Kobe Bryant – 30,016, 25.4 per game
Kobe Bryant is averaging 28 points per game, leading the NBA in scoring. Mileage isn’t slowing him down, and at 34, he seems to be the hungriest player out there for individual success. How much longer does it last? Bryant’s contract expires in 2014, but he’s been sending mixed signals. He talked about not wanting to play after this contract ends, but he also said that if he stays healthy and relevant, he wouldn’t mind playing till he’s 40.
Bryant wants NBA titles, but only if he’s a major part of them. He won’t be demoted to a role player, scoring “only” 15 points off the bench. He wants to win, but only if he’s running the show. At the moment, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down, but he’s not getting any closer to that sixth ring. We’re saying he has enough in 2014. He averages 27 points at the end of this season, 24-25 in his last one. We’re looking at about 3500-4000 at least, if he does call it quits in 2014. It’ll put him above Michael, behind Malone and Kareem.